I did not get to all the versions, and didn’t even discuss (save Patrick Stewart) stage versions. But I did cover a lot of ground.
Despite rewatching and discovering this many versions, I still love the story.
There isn’t a formula for what works. But the versions that work best don’t shy away from the difficult parts, and they lay off the sentimentality.
The message is as relevant today as ever, if not more so.
And so, a Merry Christmas to all. God bless us, everyone.
I have blogged before about Patrick Stewart’s brilliant CHRISTMAS CAROL on stage, and the wonderful CD of his reading. In 1999 he played Scrooge in a full version on TNT. So in love with the stage version was I that I gave this version more than a passing grade, but I did not give it its due. This Christmas Carol challenge has given me a lot to think about. And I decided to end the challenge with this version. Because it is, in my estimation, practically perfect. (I don’t like the eyes of the Ghost of Christmas Future. They take away from the rest of him. That’s my only quibble with this version.)
I suspect that it excels for a number of reasons. This version is so faithful to Dickens, with all of the prerequisites I mentioned before in place. The cast is fabulous, and the production values are outstanding. You have a sense of the place and time–cold, dirty, difficult living in Victorian England.
And then there is Patrick Stewart. What an actor. He knows this role, and carries the subtext in his bones. The tragic look on his face as he watches his younger self lose Belle, knowing the consequences. And his pleading to “go after her” and “speak, why doesn’t he speak?” His fondness for Fezziwig, and appreciation for the lessons he offered, but Scrooge didn’t learn. The slow transformation of Scrooge that is visible throughout the show. I realize that filming makes this subtlety difficult, but Mr. Stewart does such a great job. I love that his transformation is because of the whole experience, and not just the fear of being dead and left alone. And I also love that his Scrooge isn’t over the top. He is a very normal man who has chosen the wrong path. George C. Scott had a similar portrayal in this way–he is not a caricature, but is rather a recognizable man. Which makes him more recognizable, and more scary.
If you ever have the opportunity to see Mr. Stewart do his CHRISTMAS CAROL on stage, run, do not walk. (If you ever have a chance to see him do any part on stage, do not hesitate. He is an amazing actor.) But don’t neglect this wonderful version of my favorite story.
This 1938 version is a favorite of mine. It has some additions to the story. There is more interaction between Fred and the Cratchit family. Bob Cratchit gets fired on Christmas Eve, so he goes out and spends all of his money so the family can have a merry Christmas.
The past skips over Belle, but the school scenes are powerful. The Ghosts are all terrific, and the Ghost of Christmas Present wanders about spreading Christmas cheer. I also have to say that when Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past fly, it looks very real. I know that is a random observation, but it was 1938. That and zooming in on the school are very cool.
I have a great affection for movies from the 1930′s. Filmmaking was still fairly new, so the special effects weren’t great. Some were theatrical (like blackouts on scenes). But there is enough experimentation with the medium that makes this a movie, not a filmed theater piece.
I read that Reginald Owen was a last minute replacement for Lionel Barrymore. I think he is terrific, though I would have loved to see Lionel Barrymore in the role. Will have to settle for listening to it instead.
This version is easily in my top five. Watch it–what do you think?
This version was new to me, but the Flintstones themselves have been in my life forever. I have such fondness for the cartoon–I loved the imagination about how everyday things were reinvented for stone age sensibilities. I also loved the Fred/Wilma and Barney/Betty dynamic. Of course as an adult I can still enjoy them, but on a different level.
In this version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL Fred is going to play Scrooge in the community theater production. Barney is doubling as Fezziwig and Bob Cratchit. Wilma is the stage manager, and is forced to jump in as costumer when the Bedrock bug hits. During the course of the production Wilma has to step into a number of roles, since the Bedrock bug starts taking out the rest of the cast.
Fred has taken on some of Ebenezer’s less admirable traits during rehearsal, and Wilma is fed up with him. So as Scrooge transforms, so does Fred. The story itself is quite faithful to Dickens. Not perfect, but has the tone. And for Flintsone fans it is a must see.
Now to track down the Jetson’s version…
This 1954 version was a television version. I have absolutely no doubt that it is a favorite of many, mostly from memory. It is charming, and Fredric March is always fun to watch. That said, it is a loose adaptation that relies on people knowing A CHRISTMAS CAROL to fill it in. They only had an hour to tell the story, and they used a lot of it for songs. Not terrible songs, but still a lot of them.
There are no scenes of Scrooge the boy, instead we jump right into Fezziwig scenes. The Ghost of Christmas Past is also Belle, and she sings operatically aka a Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy moment with the young Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Present is also Fred the nephew. His song is long, and he dances around in tights which is not how I like to think of the Ghost of Christmas Present. The whole show is set up to make you really think it was all a dream.
The best part of the show is Basil Rathbone as Marley. Thankfully he didn’t sing, just haunted Scrooge. And did very well indeed.
I have very mixed feelings about the 2009 Jim Carrey/Robert Zemeckis animated version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. First of all, animated isn’t really the term I would use, since (having watched the “Making Of” extra on the DVD) the actors did the scenes wearing sci fi suits and dots on their faces so they could be imaged into a computer. It is truly paradigm shifting technology. And though it gives me the creeps a bit, it does open up tons of potential for story telling, since elements can be drawn in, rather than built.
In the bonus features they talk about realizing Dickens story fully for the first time on film because of this technology. I disagree, as this blog attests. In fact, there are times when the technology gets in the way of a good adaptation. I love that they put in some elements that usually aren’t shown, like Scrooge stifling the light of the Ghost of Christmas Past. But then he takes off and rockets around. I wonder if Disney asked Mr. Zemeckis to add 3D to this version, or if it was his idea. I wish they hadn’t done it–those are the scenes I dislike the most. The reaching out by Christmas Future, the racing down drainpipes scenes are another example. In my opinion, they take away from the story. And there are also issues of when is Scrooge able to interact/touch things and when is he not? How can he ride an icicle if he is a shadow?
And there are some really dark elements, like the Ghost of Christmas Future’s demise. Dust to dust taken to a new, slightly horrifying level. And because of this version I had to explain a straight jacket to an eight year old, which wasn’t easy or fun.
Those are the minuses. There are some pluses. A great cast. Jim Carrey is over the top, but is that surprising? And it works, for the most part. They are true to the story, and able to tell it in an interesting way. The technology works best for me in the Ghost of Christmas Present scenes (minus his death) where they are hovering over places for this visitations.
What does everyone else think? I wouldn’t discourage anyone from watching it, but I do think that they diluted some of their own magic by taking it over the top. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.